Monday, April 21, 2014

Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7)

In his work The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) Bart Ehrman explains why he 'felt constrained' to leave the Comma Johanneum out of his book.

Although (Ehrman writes) the famed Comma "represents the most obvious instance of a theologically motivated corruption in the entire manuscript tradition of the New Testament," (page 45, note 116) its appearance in the MS tradition "can scarcely be dated prior to the trinitarian controversies that arose" subsequent to the period of time examined in his monograph. In other words, the Comma is a late and spurious interpolation that does not belong in Holy Writ.

Ehrman (page 45) then references Catholic scholar Raymond E. Brown's excellent delineation of this textual issue in his Anchor Bible Commentary on The Epistles of John. See Brown, pp. 775-87. I heartily recommend Brown's thorough analysis of the issues surrounding the Comma Johanneum. Brown also shows that the Comma is an interpolation.

Rudolph Bultmann (_N.T Epistles of John_ [Die drei Johannesbriefe]. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1969. Edition 8. Aufl.)--whatever you may think of his theology--seems to be on the mark (for the most part) vis-a-vis the textual tradition when he notes:

"The so-called Comma Johanneum (vss 7f) is found in Latin [MSS] dating before A.D. 400, the text of which(it varies in details in individual manuscripts) was also taken up into the Sixto-Clementine edition of the Vulgate in the following form: 'Quoniam tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in coelo Pater, Verbum et Spiritus Sanctus, et hi tres unum sunt.' ('For there are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three who bear witness on earth, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are one.') Although the decree of the Holy Office in 1897 decided in favor of the authenticity of the Comma Johanneum, today its spuriousness is also recognized by Catholic scholars. The passage is unknown to the entire Greek tradition" (Bultmann 81).

I am not sure about Bultmann's last observation in the quote above. Maybe he means that the JC does not appear in any of the early Greek MSS. For we know that it evidently does occur in the 14-15th century and it likewise appears in the 16th century. At any rate, it is more surely a late corruption of the Greek text as Ehrman
and Brown note: the Comma does not belong in Scripture. This is also the judgment of Westcott.


digiSapientia said...

No Greek MS from 2nd to 15th cent. makes clear indeed that JC was "unknown to the entire Greek tradition". The back translation from the Latin NT is no witness at all.

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks for your input, digiSapientia. I agree with you, and to make my point clear, I'll quote from Cambridge History of the Bible(Vol 3):

"In the case of the New Testament Erasmus shocked contemporaries by omitting the famous proof text for
the Trinity in 1 John 5:7 where the genuine text reads: 'There are three that witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are one.' The
spurious addition amplifies thus, 'There are three that witness on earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are one in Christ Jesus, and there are three that give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit'. Erasmus could not
find this form in any Greek manuscript, and therefore
omitted it. Such was the outcry that he rashly promised to insert the reference to the heavenly
witnesses could it be found in any Greek manuscript. One was discovered at Dublin, late and worthless. Erasmus, having sworn to deliver the head of John the
Baptist, made the insertion in his second edition in 1519. Happily Luther in his translation did not follow him at this point. But others did, including the King
James Version. As late as 1897 the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, with the endorsement of Pope Leo XIII, declared the passage to be authentic. Forty
years later this decision was reversed." (Cambridge History of the Bible. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963. Volume 3:10-11.)

All the best,

Matt13weedhacker said...

Hi Edgar.

Catholic scholar Raymond E. Brown's: Anchor Bible Commentary on The Epistles of John, pp. 775-87.

Do you have this Commentary? Or can access it?

I'm after 1st John 5:7 references in:

[A.] Didymus the Blind [= His "Commentary on the Catholic Epistles," "On The Holy Spirit" according to Sir Issac Newton]

[B.] Cyril of Alexandria [= apparently 3 x he references it in his "Thesaurus"]

Or, perhaps, you might have access to Michael Maynards book on the Comma, through your University Library?

If you can find any information on these specific quotes, it would be of great help to me.

Kind regards, YB.


Edgar Foster said...

Brother Matt,

I do have access to Brown's commentary, but I won't be on campus again until Tuesday. I can take a look at his work then. In the meantime, you might also see

It contains links to the Migne series including Cyril's Thesaurus



Edgar Foster said...

Okay, Brother Matt13, I did check out R.E. Brown's commentary, and read the appendix on the Johannine Comma. However, I have yet to see him mention anything about Didymus although I did find Cyril of Alexandria's name but without a refefference unfortunately. It's possible that I overlooked the reference or name of Didymus so I'll read it again later. But that's what I've discovered so far.